Trapped, blocked or agitated? How horses resolve conflict.

In these three short video clips, Coaches Link and Rollie at Horse Journey demonstrate interesting behaviors that can be seen as a metaphor for life situations. It's fun learning by watching horses as they communicate non-verbally!

Coach Link is the horse on the outside of the round pen, Coach Rollie is on the inside. Just before this video begun, Link had herded Rollie into the round pen by himself, and Rollie went in quite willingly. Rollie chose to play his role inside while the gate remained open the whole time. Link chose to play his role on the outside, and notice he chose not to go into the round pen. While I wasn't sure at first why they chose to set it up like this, this was their game.

Watch to see what happens next. While you're watching ask yourself:
What do you see happening? Is Link in control or is Rollie? Or are they both?
Which roles do you see each horse playing in this scene? Is one horse more dominant, the other more passive? Does it change?
Which horse can you relate more with, the horse on the inside or the outside of the round pen? Why?

This is the beginning of observing horse's behaviors thus giving you a chance to learn about yourself. To really tune into yourself, pay close attention to each horse's behavior, subsequent reactions, and their/your feelings!

Video 1:

Before we go to the next video, what was your feeling as you watched the horses play?
What did you notice in this first video about the horses? Is there any situation in your life you can relate to when you watch the horses? Have you ever gotten yourself into a situation where you got yourself stuck in a place and then felt blocked or frustrated to get out? Was your gate wide open and you could have left, but for some reason didn't try too hard to leave, keeping yourself stuck? Maybe even sabotage yourself? Keep watching to see what happens next!

Video 2:

Did you notice the beautiful mirroring and matching they are both doing? At times they are literally doing the same movements at the same time and non-verbally!
Rollie's side:
What do you think Rollie (horse inside pen) feels like when Link blocks him from coming through the gate? Could Rollie get out if he really wanted to (at one point he started to canter towards it but then stopped)? Is there a part of Rollie that stops himself short before he could escape? What does he have to gain by staying inside? Does he feel safe there? Is he afraid to come out? Did you see how Rollie's reactions got bigger as they went on, escalating to rearing up and trotting off? How do you think Rollie was feeling when he reared? What do you think he was trying to communicate by that?

Link's side:
What do you think Link feels is his purpose in the game? Is it to keep Rollie inside? Is he protecting something by keeping him in? What role does Rollie play for Link here? Does Link feel a responsibility? What role does Link play when Rollie bites his legs through the fence? Couldn't he just walk away instead of pawing the ground? Did you see how Link held his ground and consistently guarded the gate (perhaps a boundary he had set)? How Link put his ears back at Rollie before Rollie even got close to the gate? Why is Link biting Rollie's bum/neck over the fence (and why does Rollie let him)? What is he trying to communicate?

Feel free to watch the video again if you missed any of these scenes!

Did you ever play similar games when you were a child? I recall playing similar games, cops and prisoners, (involved a prisoner who tried to escape and a prison guard or gate keeper who tried to keep him in).

Some thoughts to ponder.... Secretly do you feel more like a horse trapped inside trying to get out from something? Or like a horse on the outside trying to keep something in? And which horse would you rather be? Why?

Video 3:

In this next video, Coach Rollie demonstrates beautifully what we humans often miss out on: Emotional Agility or peaceful conflict resolution. Yes they had a time to play fight; but then they both decide on a time out! They disengage and give each other space. During this break from the play fight, Rollie does not hang on to any frustration or upset; instead he rolls it right off his back! That is emotional agility, to "roll with the punches", to let it go and not stew over who won, who got the better deal, who was wronged or what could have, should have been done! No, Rollie just enjoys the snow and Link gives him the space as they calm their energy. Acceptance!

So did you notice how this game between the horses started and ended?  Both horses seemed to choose their own roles freely. The gate remained open, they had free choice to engage, and yet they played their roles. When they finished, neither horse seemed upset. Rollie is so relaxed he lays down in the snow and rolls around. He is letting it all go, modeling forget, forgive, move on and eat some snow! Link also walked away, giving himself and Rollie his space.

This scene seems like such a wonderful metaphor of what we humans could also practice. Get it out, get it over with, realize your own roles, see the choices you're making, accept it and choose to let it go! Walk away. No hard feelings! Thank you coaches Link and Rollie for this great coaching session!

Feel free to watch all three videos again and again, as you will see more and more subtle clues, like ears, body language, timing of events... and you may get more and more insights of your own from these observations! Feel free to share your insights with me, I'm always curious what you're learning through this blog.

If you would like to explore Your Journey further…

Questions, or interested in experiencing Equine Facilitated Coaching and Personal Development sessions in Kelowna? Please contact Karin Bauer, BSW, by calling 250-860-1964 or

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